HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The icon of Huntsville and North Alabama, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center could permanently close at the end of October if it can’t raise enough money, and government leaders tell WHNT News 19 they are willing to help.
Through the “Save Space Camp” campaign, the Rocket Center is hoping to raise $1.5 million to stay open.
Both Space Camp and the Space and Rocket Center have a huge economic impact for the State of Alabama and City of Huntsville, generating $120 million for the state and drawing visitors to Huntsville. But now, they have lost so much due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they are asking for financial help.
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle say it’s unfortunate that this is part of the times.
“Nobody would have expected a virus to come in that would stifle all travel and tourism and stifle all people coming into the city, coming to visit our best tourist attractions,” he said.
USSRC closed on March 13, 2020, due to the surge in coronavirus cases. The museum reopened in late May, but with far fewer visitors than normal.
Space Camp also suffered as well when it reopened on June 28, with only 20 percent of normal attendance. Due to limited attendance, Space Camp will once again close in September.
The center has lost 2/3 of its normal revenue stream, and laid off 1/3 of its full-time employees, in addition to pausing part-time hiring. The majority of full-time employees remain on furlough, according to the center.
If the center does not raise $1.5 million, they will be closed by October. If successful, the center will stay open and Space Camp will reopen in April 2021.
Many are wondering how local government entities are helping support the “top paid tourist attraction in the state.”
“We will look from a city standpoint, both in Huntsville and Madison, but we are in the budgetary process so it’ll be in a position where we try to figure out how to support that organization,” said Mayor Finley.
Mayor Battle said the USSRC did not ask to partner with the city to raise money.
“The Space and Rocket Center has a great name in itself,” he said. “It’s one of those known across the nation, not only in Alabama. They can probably go way beyond the means of what the City of Huntsville can provide. They can go national with this campaign.”
The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce told WHNT News 19 that just like other nonprofits and businesses in the area, they have been aware of the Rocket Center’s financial need for a few months and they are working to point the center to resources.
The office of Congressman Mo Brooks, the U.S. Representative for Alabama’s 5th congressional district, which includes Huntsville, told WHNT News 19 that the congressman spoke with the governor, lieutenant governor, and White House on the matter. The office also added that Rep. Brooks cosponsored a bill that would establish a loan program for certain entities struggling to keep afloat during the pandemic, including museums.
“We recognize the value of the Space and Rocket Center, not only to Huntsville, not only to Alabama, but to the whole nation so we will be working with them,” added Mayor Battle.
For more information on the “Save Space Camp” campaign, visit savespacecamp.com.
You can donate to their GoFundMe page here.